Horse grooming is not just a ritual, it is more of an act of affection. Being an equine owner, you would probably know that grooming your horse in the winter is a particularly difficult feat because, depending on the breed, horses tend to develop a thicker and longer coat in winters.
While this longer coat helps keep your horse warm in harsh weather, it brings in additional work for you. From grooming the horse before a ride to grooming them after, horse grooming in winter is a whole new ball game. Not to mention, if a full horse coat gets wet, it may actually make them cold due to dampness, according to equine specialist Carrie Hammer.
In this article, we have offered horse grooming tips for winter that are going to make your life (or at least winters) easier.
Why Horse Grooming in Winter Is a Pain in the Neck
Here is why horse grooming in winters is a pain in the neck.
Animals tend to develop longer coats in winter because these longer coats help keep them warm during the winters. If you own a horse you would know the amount of effort it takes to brush your horses’ coat. This effort quadruples when the coat gets longer.
Even though it is winter, horses tend to sweat more because of their thicker coats. Increased sweat, however, means more mud, higher chances of skin problems, difficult to remove dirt; which translates to more need for intensive cleaning.
Longer coats tend to collect more dirt. Since your horse’s coat is longer, there is a higher chance of dirt and debris to get stuck in their coat.
Too Cold for a Bath
While the need to clean your horse increases in winter, giving them a cold bath is out of the equation. Not only is it too chilly but drying them off after the bath is a whole new challenge.
So what could be the best way to clean your horse?
Here’s What You’ll Need to Groom Your Horse in Winter
We recommend you either buy all of the following grooming tools for your horse or invest in one of our recommended horse grooming kits that will contain most (if not all) of these tools.
Winter Curry Comb
A winter curry comb comes in handy in two ways:
Firstly, it helps lift off dirt and debris from your horse’s body.
And, secondly, it helps improve circulation.
A Shedding Blade
Although a shedding blade is used to get rid of a winter coat, it can be used to remove stubborn and dried dirt.
A slicker brush is designed to reach deep within a thick and long coat. This brush is quite helpful when it comes to removing dried sweat and dander.
Brushes with Coarse Bristles
You might want to shift to a brush with coarse bristles, as they help de-tangle thick winter coats.
Blanket With a Neck
Putting a blanket over your horse will not only help you keep it warm but will prevent their mane from tangling or collecting dirt. Check out our picks of the top winter blankets for your horse.
Best Hacks for Horse Grooming in Winter
You’ve got all the tools you need for horse grooming in winters, now it’s time for you to learn the most effective ways of horse grooming.
Curry and Vacuum
As a rule of thumb, there is nothing better than currying your horse’s hair. Currying helps loosen the dirt on your horse’s coat while massaging helps improve circulation.
It is important to remember that currying helps lift off the dirt. This means that the dirt and debris that are stuck deep inside the coat rise up to the surface.
After currying, you would need to vacuum the coat so that all of the dirt and debris can be removed from the hair completely with the vacuum. You can even get a vacuum that can reverse the air pressure making it a dryer.
Remove Dried-up Mud
Let’s be honest, removing dried up mud is a big challenge. Scraping it off your equine can be a tricky thing. You would want to clean them while keeping it the least painful.
So how to remove dried up mud?
An open shedding blade works perfectly on dried up mud. You can use the open shedding blade, it scrapes off the mud effortlessly.
However, make sure to use this for fleshy areas and mind the pressure when working on hips and withers.
When in doubt, use your fingers. We believe that there is no brush as good as human fingers. While using your fingers is an affectionate act, it can also help you sense inflammation on your horse.
When grooming your horse, it is greatly advised to run your fingers on the horse’s coat. This helps untangle the knots and help spot if your horse has scabies.
Winter means cold weather, this means that anything that has to do with water is out of the equation.
So how can we remove all the dirt?
Water-less shampoos. A water-less shampoo, as the name suggests is a dry shampoo that can help clean your horse’s coat. By adding a simple thing as a dry shampoo to your horse grooming routine can solve many of your problems.
Make sure to read the label before buying a dry shampoo. There are a few shampoos that are specifically for spot cleaning while others help cover the entire coat.
Pair this technique with some hot towelling and you will have a freshly bathed look.
Hot towelling, as the name suggests, is towelling your horse with a hot towel. This technique is extremely viable in reaching deep down your horse’s coat. Pair it with some dry shampoo and your horse will be squeaky clean.
Here is how you can hot towel your horse:
- Set a pot of water to boil.
- While the water is ready, prep your horse. Curry and brush your hair. Use dry shampoo to spot clean.
- Wear gloves and soak the towel in hot water and wring it dry.
- Start rubbing the coat with the towel. Change sides occasionally.
- Re-dip and wring till the desired cleanliness is achieved.
Trim the Fetlocks
If you plan to groom your horse in winters, we advise you to trim their fetlocks. A horse’s fetlocks tend to accumulate a lot of dirt and mud.
Were it summer, cleaning fetlocks would be simple. In winters, this can be challenging. Thus, it is best to trim the excess hair off the fetlock.
Trimming fetlock will not only help keep your horse clean but will prevent scratches. Often at times wet mud paired with fungus and bacteria can result in greasy heels or scratches. With a trimmed, fetlock, this issue can be easily addressed.
Bathe Your Horse
Bathing your horse is always the first choice. However, this can only be possible if you have an enclosed space.
If you have a covered space where you can bathe your horse then bath your horse just like you would in summers but use warm water only.
Once your horse is bathed, make sure to thoroughly dry your horse. You can use a dryer to dry your horse’s coat.
It is important to dry your horse. Just like humans, a wet horse can get sick too.
Spot Clean Your Horse
If you do not have an indoor place then the quickest way to clean your horse is spot cleaning. You can clean some spots on your horse’s coat by using a sponge or towel with warm water. Dry shampoos that are made specifically for spot cleaning can also be used.
Horse grooming in winters can probe a challenge. This challenge can be minimized if certain areas are rubbed clean immediately after a ride.
These areas are saddle, under the jaw, girth area, and bridle.
If these areas are taken care of in time can not only help prevent the challenge but also prevent any form of infections and abrasions.
Post Workout Grooming Routine
Sweaty horse on a winter day? Well, are you in for some intensive cleaning!
Fret not, for we got you covered.
Here is how you can groom your horse post-workout:
- Cover your horse with a cooler. Beneath the cooler, add in some straws because straws help create a loft that allows air to circulate while paces the drying process.
- Let your horse roll. While your horse rolls on sawdust it soaks up all the sweat and removes any itchiness caused by dry sweat. Once your horse is done rolling, brush off any residue that is left on its coat.
- Put your grooming vacuum to reverse and blow-dry your horse. This process will help dry your horse while removing debris and residues too. However, make sure that you don’t blow the debris in the horse’s eye.
FAQs About Horse Grooming in Winter
Horse grooming in winter can get tricky. And even though we have tried our best to cover everything that you’ll need for horse grooming in winter, there are some things that we missed.
Below are some of the most asked questions about horse grooming in winter which should compensate for anything that we missed in the main article.
How cold is too cold to bathe a horse?
As a rule of thumb, when your horse is completely wet it tends to catch a cold. A horse with a short coat can bear up to 40F. However, if wet, a horse would feel cold at a temperature of 50 to 55F.
Make sure you gauge the need for bathing your horse, the length and thickness of the coat, and the location. If you have an enclosed place then bathing horses won’t be an issue, given that you dry them off immediately.
Nevertheless, there are many other ways in which you can groom your horse in winters.
Should you clip your horse in winter?
There is a reason why your horse’s coat grows in winter. Clipping it is like going against nature. However, you can clip the hair to ease grooming in winters.
That said, make sure to clip as little coat as possible. Your horse will need this extended coat to keep warm. If your horse is as active as in summers then clipping coat won’t do any harm.
A long coat means greater time to cool off the horse and more cleaning area. If that is the case, you can clip a certain amount of your equine’s coat.
Can a horse stay outside in winter?
Horses can stay outside in winter given that they have their winter coat grown. A winter coat is thicker and longer than the usual coat. This coat helps keep your horse warm in winters.
Additionally, make sure that your horse is given the right diet. A weak horse will catch cold irrespective of his winter coat. Keeping your horse active is another important aspect. Make sure they get the right exercise as this helps maintain their blood circulation.
Also, ensure that they are under shelter to avoid direct contact with snow or blizzard. With these aspects covered, your horse can easily withstand the toughest of winters.
How do I know if my horse is cold?
Some common signs of knowing if your horse is cold:
- Touch your horse, you will be able to tell how cold your horse is by simply sensing its body temperature upfront.
- A shivering horse is a cold house. If your horse is shivering make sure to spot check their temperature and take appropriate actions to keep it warm.
- A tucked-in tail is also an indication of a cold horse. Horses tend to tuck their tail to keep themselves warm. If you see your horse with its tail tucked cover them up immediately.
When should I cut my horse for winter?
A horse grows a winter coat around mid of August. This is the time when days tend to be shorter.
Ideally, you would want to clip your horse’s hair when the winter coat is fully grown. Your horse will have fully grown hair in September or October.
Clipping your horse’s hair will not only help it easily cool off after a run but make it easier for you to groom the horse. However, make sure to keep the length long as a long coat helps keep your horse warm in winters.
Horse grooming in winter is not everyone’s cup of tea. It needs precision and care. That said, no matter how much care and attention you give to grooming, your horse’s diet is what helps maintain a healthy coat.
A horse with a well-maintained diet with the right amount of cholesterol and proteins will help give their coat a shine and luster. Horse’s metabolism works just like us humans. Better the diet, the better the skin.
Thus, to get your horse a shiny and thick coat make sure to keep an eye on the diet along with your horse’s grooming in winter.